Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Ziek 04-23-2008 11:50 PM

10 or 20 gallon setup
This summer I am planning to build a vivarium for my girlfriend's dorm next year. I'm hoping to use a 20 gal but they may have a limit of 10. It's going to have about 2-4 inches of water and the rest will be planted soil above. I was wondering for ideas of what to put in it. My girlfriend isn't terribly familiar with care for these things so it needs to be something hardy. I'll probably be the one doing most of the maintenance when I'm there. It also needs to be something that can handle being moved since I'll need to take it back over summers and during winter break. She seems to have a frog in mind but she also said she doesn't want to have to feed it crickets. Anyone have any suggestions of what would do well in a tank of that size?

bettababy 04-24-2008 02:01 AM

Your options are going to be very limited due to size of the tank and her unwillingness to feed crickets. A vivarium situation is most suited for amphibians, and the main diet of amphibians is live bugs... there's not any way to get around that. It's not just a matter of what they will take, but also about nutrition to keep them alive and healthy.

Even frogs would have a limited selection of anything that can live in a 10 gallon tank for long... dart frogs would be the only thing I can come up with off the top of my head, and then maybe only 2 - 3 of them... not the easiest thing to care for. They have very specific requirements, and because of their size they need live wingless fruitflies for food, and those are something you get the pleasure of raising yourself... lol. Humidity has to be controled for them, too... and very little water other than misting frequently.

I'm wondering how you're planning to seperate water from dirt in such a small tank? There would have to be some kind of solid partition between the 2 so that the dirt doesn't fall down into and contaminate the water. Once it gets wet, the water will turn to mud, so it would have to be perfectly sealed to keep the soil and water from mixing. Then there is the added maintenance anytime an animal goes from dirt to water... again turning that water to mud. What you are wanting to create can be done, but not easily and not easy maintenance in a 10 gallon tank. You won't have the length to pull it off without creating a mess... I know cuz I've tried it many times.
Now, if you were willing to swap the mud for gravel, large stuff works really well for this, then work with bog and pond type plants... you could use a divider without the worry of sealing it off so tightly, without the mess, and a way to add a filtration unit. Something like a small Whisper 10i, or the 5i, rocks built around it to hide it along one side of the tank, rocks down to the bottom to keep gravel away from the intake... submersible so goes right down into the water... gravel around the rock to help hide it more... and you have a small waterfall which will help keep the whole thing clean. Just be sure to seal it well wherever cords will need to run out from under the cover, as amphibians are escape artists.
With all of that in mind, then you could add a small heater (something made for a bowl and preset, so it's small and not too powerful for not much water) and you'd have a nice habitat for dwarf frogs, and then she only has to feed black worms, they stay under the water, and are compatible with most fish.

Or... you could skip having the water other than in a dish buried in the dirt to hide it well, and get my daughter's favorite pet... a madigascar giant millipede. They eat rotten fruit and veggies, so easy to toss salad scraps to them. Water dish needs to be shallow so they don't drown in it, and they need to be misted a few times/day, but pretty easy to keep.

Those are about the only 2 things I can think of that would do well in a 10 gallon vivarium set up and won't require crickets for a diet. Have yoy considered just making it a full blown aquarium and buying her a few fish instead? Moving it wouldn't have to be hard... drain the water into a bucket, put fish and plants into the bucket, air stone if you're going more than 30 minutes away, leave gravel in tank, and out it goes. Get it home and put 1/2 the water back in, then the fish, then fill it up and add plants and you're done.

Hope this helps!

Ziek 04-24-2008 05:28 PM

I have the creation part worked out, as well as seperating dirt from water. I've done that before at work. I'm just trying to figure out something to put in it. She seems to not want to have to deal with live food which I told her before is going to be a challenging issue. I'm planning to build one with a 40 gallon breeder later on for myself and that should be a bit easier to work with. She may just end up with a cool looking planted tank and no live creatures.

bettababy 04-24-2008 05:44 PM

Let her know she's not going to find any animals to put into something like that and still avoid live foods... you can do just a planted tank that way... that would be about your only option unless you put fish into the water side... which would require a filter.

Have you considered maybe a betta in the water end, if its deep enough?

Ziek 04-25-2008 12:26 AM

I hadn't even thought about a betta, they don't require a lot of water. I've got a filter worked into the design and a way to block the fish from getting to it. I may actually go that root. I wouldn't have to worry so much about working a lid into it then either which would leave more space for the plants to grow. That's a pretty good idea, she likes colorful things ha.

bettababy 04-25-2008 02:24 PM

Glad I could help. If you're going that route, maybe consider researching the natural habitat and working those plants into your design? You could make a nice little betta biotope situation if you did your research... if you need help, let me know...

beetlebz 04-26-2008 06:56 PM

whats her issue with live food? handing it? killing something? buying?

I ask because, if she doesnt want to handle crickets, you can always get a cricket keeper. it has tubes the crickets climb up inside to hide. when you want to feed you just shake the tube into the tank.

just a thought :)

I do like your biotope idea, provided the betta had some swimming room. Its a brilliant idea! could we talk you into a picture diary of its creation?

Aquarius Keeper 09-26-2008 11:28 AM

How about a large hermit crab on the land portion?

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